Radio Kansas is owned and operated by Hutchinson Community College. Their effort at public service broadcasting began modestly with an 80-watt student station on September 11, 1972 with the call letters KHCC-FM. In 1978 the college decided to upgrade the station to a 100,000 watt professional public radio station. On July 1, 1979 this station was inaugurated as the Wichita area's first full-power public radio service with a staff of five in Lockman Hall on HCC's main campus. The mission was to bring the finest in public radio to the central part of Kansas.
From the beginning, quality was the single most important goal of Radio Kansas. That vision resulted in rapid growth for the station in programming quality and public financial support. It also resulted in a very good public image for HCC, one of very few community colleges nationwide with a university-class station.
The real history of the station is more of a biography. It's about David M. Horning, the standards he set and the people he drew around him in the first 30 years. Horning came back to the area from WBAA at Purdue University, after having spent time previously at (10,000 watt at the time) KMUW in Wichita. He was responsible in 1979 for assembling the staff, funding and other resources necessary to build KHCC into a viable public broadcast service.
Horning hired Ric Jung as Chief Engineer in 1980. He has overseen a broadcast plant that started as a single (all analog) transmitter and modest studio facilities and has grown in to a network of three transmitters, each digitally broadcasting a remarkable 4 stations, with studios and other infrastructure support. Jung remains in this role more than 35 years later.
The history of Radio Kansas is also about the up-and-coming professionals who took a chance on a small-ish midwestern station and parlayed their experience under Horning into successful careers across the public broadcasting system. These professionals are far too numerous to mention, but the list notably includes several who went on to manage stations of their own. Brief biographies don't do justice to any of these individuals, but Craig Curtis, for instance, went on to be active in management at American Public Media and later ran KPCC, Southern California Public Radio. Chuck Miller later ran stations in Louisiana and Kentucky. John Huertz managed KSOF at Friends University, Wichita. Dan Skinner managed stations in Indiana, Texas, and now Kansas University's station in Lawrence. Stewart Vanderwilt now runs one of the jewels in the public radio system, KUT in Austin. Sharon Dudgeon is GM of the station at her alma mater in Michigan. Anthony Hunt has run stations in Maryland and now Indiana. Eric Strobel managed (commercial) KMMM, Pratt. Nancy Finken is Network Manager at Nebraska Educational Telecommunications. Under Horning, former Lousiana GM Mark Simmons became our Music Director, and finally Ken Baker is Manager of the Radio Kansas network. We're bound to have lost track of other managers, directors and producers who got their start or furthered their careers at Radio Kansas. If you're out there, drop us a line!
In 1984 the KHCC studios were moved to the third floor of Davis Hall,
located about one mile from the main HCC campus in Hutchinson. Ric Jung designed the acoustics of the studios and production rooms using primitive but effective acoustic modelling software. In addition to these purpose-built studios the facility offered, adequate office
space as the staff grew to 17.
As KHCC grew, citizens from other parts of Kansas began to inquire about how they could get public radio in their areas. By working with groups of supporters in these communities, KHCD-FM, 89.5 MHz, Salina-Manhattan was built and began broadcasting on January 28, 1988. This station serves the north-central part of the state extending to the Nebraska border.
Finally on August 3, 1992 KHCT-FM, serving the Great Bend-Hays area was added to the network. It was a struggle saying KHCC/KHCD/KHCT dozens of times a day, so with the three stations, we knew we needed something simpler. At this time, the name Radio Kansas was adopted to solve this problem.
In 2006 Radio Kansas was among the first adopters of HD Radio, a new technology that adds digital radio signals to the FM we already broadcast. In 2012 this new HD signal was augmented with a power increase and eventually three more stations. There's a full-time bluegrass & folk station, a full-time jazz station and a station with contemporary instrumental music all day long. Again Radio Kansas is at the forefront of HD technologies providing listeners with now four separate program channels of enjoyment.
All four stations are available for internet streaming from the Radio Kansas web site. These streams can be heard on a wide variety of Internet radios, computers and mobile devices, including the free NPR News app for Android, iPhone and iPod touch.
Radio Kansas continues to strive for the highest in quality in everything it does. The station continues to be recognized as one of the premiere public radio operations in the country.